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Freaks, Geeks, and Strange Girls

Freaks, Geeks, and Strange Girls

FEATURED Freaks, Geeks, and Strange Girls

Sideshow banners and freak show culture of the American carnival.Sideshows sprung up alongside traveling circuses across the United States in the mid 19th Century after the railway system linked both coasts, and they fully flourished in rural areas after the turn of the century. With their inexpensive promises of lurid delights, fantastic feats, and horrific “monstrosities,” they were part magic show, part raunchy B-movie, and part wunderkammer, all in one. The barker and music might draw a customer close, but a well-executed banner might make or break an act. Firms sprang up across the country to handle demand, and the works are often astounding and lurid combinations of text and image. These works stand as one of the more fascinating cross-pollinations of illustration, signage and self-taught / vernacular art in American history. They’re also very un-PC and strangely beautiful. As with all modern advertising, the promise of the images rarely lived up to their accompanying pitches;


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